|Interview with Brick Williams (guitar) and John Dunston (drums) of the great band Hourglass!
John Dunston:Brick Williams:
Leonel PerfectProg.Com: Ok first of all, thanks for this interview Hourglass in the name of all PerfectProg.com Team!
1. Can you tell us How Hourglass born?Brick: I had been playing guitar for quite a few years and had been in a band that played basic metal and classic rock type of stuff. We did lots of covers and we had some original material as well. I wanted to write more complex music, and had always been a fan of progressive bands like Rush, Kansas, etc. Things didn’t work out with the metal band and so I just started writing as much music as I could and trying to get some complete songs finished. I’ve always written lyrics so I had plenty of those. Our first singer Jon Shumway was a friend of mine growing up and was actually the drummer for a while in the metal band I mentioned. We started to play together just for fun and he was elected as the singer instead of the drummer. I had known Eric from my neighborhood growing up and he was about the only keyboard player I knew. He started jamming with us and then it was just a matter of placing some ads locally to find a bassist and a drummer. We were able to find some people and then we started to work on all the material I had written over the years. That music would become “This Lonely Time and Place.”
2. Why do you call yourself a "progressive rock band" (website logo) instead of progressive metal band?
We don’t just play “metal” music. The word “rock” can encompass metal as well as all other styles of rock music. A lot of the music we write is too soft or light to be considered metal. It is certainly understandable how someone would consider us a progressive metal band though. Metal music plays a big role in our style. We love metal.
3. Do you or any of the Hourglass members have side projects?Our keyboard player Eric Robertson is in a couple of bands besides Hourglass. He is involved with some other musicians and they do some shows locally here in Utah and release some music. Our singer Cody is involved in a lot of local theater and recently returned from a touring production of a Broadway musical. We all have varied musical interests and will sometimes do small projects locally, but nothing that we are pursuing like Hourglass. Maybe someday.
4. Are you guys planning touring in the near future, playing on a festival or else?We would love to tour. A small tour of the western United States is something we have talked about for a while now--the problem is always funding it. We hope we can put something like that together in the near future. We do play many local festivals here in Utah, and have done that for several years now. We usually play a big “Evening with Hourglass” type of show a couple times a year. We often receive emails wondering when we are coming over to Europe or when we are playing somewhere overseas. It seems like a large portion of our fan base is in Europe so we would love to get over there someday.5. In our website PerfectProg.Com we have several polls, can you tell us where your votes go on each one?
Best band: Dream Theater
Best singer: Russell Allen
Best drummer: Mike Portnoy (Can’t vote for John)
Best keyboardist: Jordan Rudess
Best guitarist: John Petrucci
Best bassist: John Myung
Obviously we look up to Dream Theater in many ways.
6. Brick, what you were thinking and what you were expecting when you created Hourglass?
I just wanted to find musicians who wanted to do a full-length album of progressive material. I had no idea I’d be doing interviews and that we’d be selling our music all over the world. It’s actually very humbling to think about any amount of success that we’ve had. I’m very grateful to our fans and all the promoting that they do just by telling other people about us. In the beginning I just wanted to have fun with other musicians and write some music that we could enjoy. If other people enjoyed it, great.
7. What are your music influences in general for all of you?Dream Theater, Rush , Yes, Kansas, Toto, Styx, Symphony X, Planet X, Pink Floyd, Queensryche, Megadeth, classical music.
Everyone in the band has many different influences and artists that inspire them but these are the ones who influence us as a band.
8. Great lyrics on exit wounds, awesome history, how can you imagine that?
Brick: I’ve always tried to write lyrics that have an emotional quality. A very emotional subject is death, especially if it is the death of a loved one. I tried to write a song that would discuss the death of a loved one from several different points of view. I chose war as the means of death. Basically a father goes to war and loses his life, and the song is about how his family reacts to the loss. How each individual family member reacts is different. One son is angry and doesn’t believe in war, or life after death, so his reaction is very bitter. His daughter is fairly young and she introverts and becomes very quiet and reserved, stays in her room a lot. The man’s father is a former war veteran and is more accepting of the cause and is more understanding. He is obviously still sad but he sees his son’s death as a noble thing, and he also believes that there is life after death and that he will see his son again. The man’s wife is a roller coaster of emotions, one day trying to stay strong for the kids, another day completely falling apart. His other son also sees his father’s death as an honorable thing and desires to become a soldier himself. Two things inspired the song, first was a painting I have by Lee Teter that depicts a Vietnam veteran standing at the memorial in Washington D.C., and as he is looking at the names of the fallen soldiers, he is seeing their ghosts. The second inspiration was John’s brother leaving to fight in Afghanistan. One night John came to practice, and said he needed to leave early to go to a family get together to see his brother off. That is what inspired the whole “Farewell” section of the song.
9. What are the future plans for the band?
We should have a new album out within a year roughly. We have been working on it for over a year now. It is a very challenging album for us musically, but that is what makes it exciting, and we are very pleased with how the songs are turning out so far. There are some really complex sections that will be on the new album. We would like to get out of state to play some shows. We always have the goal of improving our technical skills and our songwriting capabilities. We also want to have fun creating music and playing live shows.10. So many changes of Hourglass members, why is that?
One member was asked to leave because of his drug use. Some members were not as focused or as skilled as we felt they needed to be in order for us to accomplish our goals. Some people chose to pursue different interests and they were not on the same page. Others left to serve religious missions for two years. Some, like Eric, rejoined the band after returning from their volunteer service.
11. What you guys expect from your music?
To make people happy and to move them emotionally. We play because we love to create and play music. Hopefully the music we write brings other people enjoyment. It would be great to make a living playing the music we enjoy, but we enjoy the process whether it makes us money or not. Hourglass is a fun way to be creative, musically speaking.12. Jon Shumway, where is he? why he left the band?
He is one of the people who chose to pursue different interests. We still have a great relationship with him and see him often. He is still here in Utah.
13. Who wrote the lyrics and music on the great album Subconscious?
John: At the time of “Subconscious” Brick and I were the only members of the band for a while. We were looking for replacements due to members leaving on missions. During this time we tried to spend our time efficiently by writing “Subconscious”. Brick wrote the lyrics. I was involved with the overall ideas. I have also started writing lyrics now that we will probably use in the future. Brick would often show me a riff he had written, and I would begin to write a rhythm to his riff. Sometimes after hearing the rhythm I was playing Brick would change or fine-tune his riff. Sometimes I would show Brick a rhythm I had written and he would write a part to fit my beat, and I would change my beat to fit his riff better. Since Brick and I have been playing together for some time, I would even write a guitar riff and describe the riff to him by humming or singing the riff to him. It is quite entertaining to watch. Amazingly enough, Brick understands this “musician’s language” perfectly. Some of the riffs on “Subconscious” were written in this manner. Likewise, Brick can speak “Drum”, so some of the rhythms were written the same way. This “musician’s language” would allow us to share our ideas in a rapid manner without writing them out. Much of the time we played things spontaneously and were pleased with the results.
Brick: I will usually come to rehearsal with a riff or chord progression somewhat worked out, but not always. John will write his drum part to those riffs or progressions, and then the songs just fall into place through that process. Other members have always had ideas that they will voice and that have been used. On “Subconscious” John was involved with more of the little details and the piecing together of riffs and songs. He actually writes some pretty cool riffs in his head. The hardest part that I will usually have to deal with is piecing the songs together and making sure that they have a good flow to them, especially the epic tunes. I’m always trying to figure out what music to use for the verse, the chorus, the bridge, a transition, that type of stuff. We will also sometimes write some great music just improvising and we have used many of those improvs in our songs.14. Subconscious, do you consider that your masterpiece, is going to be more than that in the future?
We are very pleased with “Subconscious”, and feel that it was a great accomplishment, but we feel our songwriting skills will improve with each new album. We already feel like the album we are working on now will be an improvement, and will contain new qualities that our previous album did not have. Half the fun is trying to top yourselves.15. When is going to be ready your new album, are you working on it?
We hope to have it done within a year. We are working on it very hard currently, and have been for about a year now. We rehearse a couple of times a week together, and we practice daily as individuals. Almost all of the music is written, and there are just a few small sections left to finish. All of the lyrics are done except a couple of sections that will be on the epic track.16. For John Dunston: impressive drums, octabans, lot of toms, double kick, shine, a lot of cymbals, a lot of percussions a lot a of progressive drumming, do you figure this out after the guitar and bass are created or before that or what’s your method to create it? where do you learn to create music and your influences?
Much of what I write is determined by what the other musicians are playing. I also write a lot of odd time-signature rhythms on my own and the band writes their parts later. I do not use octabans. I do use roto toms. I am self-taught (if there is such a thing). Although I have never had personal lessons, I feel I have been tutored by the best. Most of my practicing came from painstakingly mimicking my favorite drummers to learn new techniques and ideas. Of course, one can soon start creating his own techniques once he develops the basics. I try to play what I would enjoy listening to. I am, of course, excited about learning and continuing to improve. My hands and legs will never be able to keep up with my imagination so the challenge goes on. I originally decided to start playing drums while listening to a lot of old Yes and Rush when I was 13. Some drummers that are inspiring me currently (many have and will) are Virgil Donati, Mike Portnoy, and Jason Rullo.17. To Brick: all the guitar riffs, harmony, acoustic, classical guitar, solos, rhythms, are just amazing, with a great feeling and virtuosity, can you explain to us how you figure this out? do you record all the guitars, do you create all this by yourself?In the past I’ve never recorded anything until we enter the studio. I have it all in my head. On the album we are working on now, we have had to record some things, just so we don’t forget them. We wrote way too much music in a very short period of time. Everyone has a ton of ideas and it was getting overwhelming trying to keep track of them all. As far as harmonies go, those are worked out with myself and/or the keyboardist. I do love to play acoustic and nylon string guitar, as well as 12- and 7-string guitar, so I try to incorporate all of those into an Hourglass album. Thank you for the compliment about having great feeling. Virtuosity is a great thing to possess, and it is certainly something I’ve spent much of my life trying to obtain, but ultimately it really comes down to feel. I like guitar shredders, but I really enjoy someone who can play amazing, and who also has great feel and great tone. A combination of the two has always been my goal. The only problem is that developing good feel on the instrument is very difficult to do. Many people say you either have it, or you don’t.18. John Dunston, please tell us what gear do you use to play?, please give us details about your drums, cymbals, percussions, heads you use, etc...Oh boy. I play a Yamaha Birch Absolute drum set with…
- 8”10”12”14”16” inch toms
- 22” bass drum
- 14” brass snare. David Garibaldi signature snare. Piccolo and full combo.
- 3 roto tom set
- DW 5000 double pedal
- Pearl rack
- Yamaha and Pearl hardware
- AAX Hi hat 14”
- 22” Zildjian ping ride
- 14” Zildjian A crash
- 16” Zildjian A crash
- 14” Sabian AAX explosion crash.
- 18” Paint Piaste crash
- Zil bell Zildjian
- 14” Sound formula Piaste large bell
- LP Tambourine Cyclopes
- 18” inch Paragon Zildjian china
- 14” David Weckle china
- High Mike Portnoy max stax
- LP red jam block
- 14” jungle hats Zildjian
- Yamaha remote hi-hat stand
That may not be complete or completely accurate.
Ok Brick, John, thanks for this great interview you both give us, we really appreciated, anything you want to add to Hourglass fans and PerfectProg.Com visitors...
Thanks for the interview. As far as to our fans, hang in there. A new album will come out as soon as we can finish it. We want to make sure it is another step up for us, and we want to top ourselves. Thanks for supporting us for several years now. We really do have some great fans. Thanks PerfectProg.com.
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